Real estate data is a valuable commodity and now, like never before, it is for sale. There have been so many opinions opined about the value proposition of investing in data that I don’t think we need to go down that road. The question isn’t “should you invest in data to make real estate decisions?” Of course! Data is and always has been valuable. The real estate industry has always invested in data. It was just that they paid for it with their time rather than their checkbooks.
Now we are able to understand property markets without years of personal research. We can buy data that has been aggregated, cleaned, and polished, ready to work its hardest for us like a hungry Ivy league intern. But skipping to the idea of getting the data to work for us is overlooking an important part data analytics process: procurement. How you buy data might seem like a detail but it makes all the difference in what you can do with it. Because, when it comes to data, there is no such thing as a small detail.
Traditionally data was sold in bulk, it would come in large files and would then have to be integrated into any other data that a company has. But this created a hassle for the industry. Plus, data is always being updated, which created another laborious task of regularly refreshing a company’s database. Real estate people don’t want to spend their time wrestling with data, they just want to be making real estate decisions with it. So different methods were adopted. Data providers started to act more like cloud storage vessels, that would keep the data on their servers and provide it (almost) instantly upon request. As long as a company was able to set up an application programming interface (known as API) they would be able to pull their freshest data on-demand.
Like everything, this has its downsides too. In order for an API to work something needs to be known about the property, at the very minimum its address or parcel number. This sounds easy but can be difficult if you want to get data from large data sets like zip codes, cities or entire states. It isn’t like you can just google: “list of every address in Newark, New Jersey.” So, to be able to get data on every property in certain areas we need to return to the world of bulk data.
The person who turned me on to this was Josh Fraser, founder of Estated. “We’ve had a ton of requests for bulk data. What that means is you can search by zip code, city, county or state and be returned the entire file with every address within them,” he told me. He shared with me just a few of the long list of requests for bulk data his company regularly receives. They reveal a lot about the reasons behind the requests like this one, “I need mailing addresses for condominium unit owners in Florida.” Or this, “we are looking for real estate transaction data for the state of Illinois.” Interestingly, many of them were from people outside the real estate industry like this one: “I need data on homes with pools and spas in certain zip codes for a client that is looking for favorable places to open pool & spa stores.”
Due to the high number of these requests, Estated is now rolling out upgrades to their bulk data solution that will allow them to fulfill more of these requests, faster. Being able to get a CSV file with all of the property info of a certain region can be a huge value add. Trends often don’t reveal themselves until large sets are analyzed, so pulling information about properties one-by-one isn’t always the best solution.
Property data has value far beyond its price. That is no longer even an argument. What is important is to understand what data is worthwhile and what is the best way to buy it. In a lot of cases, it might be best to buy in bulk.